The NBA Trade Deadline is in the rearview mirror, and, unlike most of the other top teams in the league, the Golden State Warriors didn’t make any moves. Just because they didn’t make a trade, however, doesn’t mean they’re done exploring options to improve their roster. It would just have to come via free agency.
One name that’s being floated is center Joakim Noah. Noah currently plays for the New York Knicks, but only in the sense that they’re paying his salary. The veteran started the season as an odd fit on the rebuilding team, and then matters were exacerbated when he nearly came to blows with head coach Jeff Hornacek.
As such, he is no longer practicing or traveling with the team, despite being healthy.
Jeff Hornacek on Joakim Noah: “We’ve moved on. I think maybe he’s ready to move on and maybe have an opportunity somewhere else.” He indicated there is no immediate plan for Noah to return to the team. He wasn’t sure if Noah will continue to be away for the rest of the season.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 21, 2018
As the Knicks see no future with Noah, they are working hard on a buyout. And, if the buyout is secured, the Warriors are one of the teams with an interest. Frank Isola of the NY Daily News reported that “several playoff-bound teams are closely monitoring Noah’s situation”, before listing the Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Minnesota Timberwolves as interested parties.
It’s easy to see why the Warriors would be interested. At his peak, Noah was one of the top defensive players in the league, even earning the Defensive Player of the Year award just four years ago. He finished fourth in MVP voting that year, and solidified himself as one of the best passing big men in the league.
Injuries have made life hard on him, as he’s missed huge portions of every season since, and never settled into a role with the Knicks after signing a massive contract with them in 2016.
But the Knicks certainly aren’t a situation where many can thrive, so it’s worth wondering whether a good environment and a well-coached team can return the former All-Star to some semblance of his star form. While it seems unlikely that he’ll ever be a top player again, it’s not unreasonable to think that he can be a strong defensive presence off the bench for a playoff team.
However, becoming available is a bit of an issue. Noah is owed nearly $38 million over the next two seasons, plus the remaining portion of this season’s contract. The Knicks are not exactly jumping at the opportunity to waive him and eat that money, but Noah hasn’t yet been willing to budge and take a pay cut for a buyout.
The sides don’t have long to work something out. The playoff eligibility waiver deadline this year is March 1, meaning Noah has to sign with a new team by then in order to be eligible for the postseason. If he isn’t released or bought out with the Knicks by then, there’s no chance that a playoff team will add him to the mix.
In addition to that obstacle, the Warriors would have to clear a roster spot in order to sign Noah. That would come in the form of cutting a player, likely either JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney, or Omri Casspi. The front office probably isn’t incredibly enthused by that idea.
If the Warriors can clear space, and if Noah is bought out or released, and if he still has some talent in him, then he could be a great addition to the defending champs.
But that’s a whole lot of ifs.